By Wendy Glick
In a given year, Catholic Charities celebrates a lot of birthdays. Every child at St. Anthony Family Shelter and Harbor House who has a birthday while in the shelter receives a party complete with cake, decorations, and gifts. We do this because each individual who comes through our doors is special. Each is made in the image and likeness of God.
Now, it’s our time to celebrate. This year marks Catholic Charities’ 75th birthday. From its beginning in 1943, the agency has helped stabilize and strengthen hundreds of thousands of parents, children and individuals by providing them assistance and tools for basic living.
Our services have always addressed the unique needs of the time. In the early years, the agency focused primarily on the care of children through St. Joseph’s Home, the placement of children for adoption, limited family counseling, and service to families in conjunction with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Today, our 13 programs and projects address hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, counseling, immigration and disabled adults, and seniors.
Our priorities include strengthening families with hope and enriching them with peace in healthy personal income management, relationships and life-skills based education through case management, counseling and care. Last year, Catholic Charities served over 15,100 individuals. Those who come to us in their time of need have powerful stories to tell.
When Adam turned 10 this year at St. Anthony Family Shelter he had more than his birthday on his mind. Adam suffers from ADHD and other behavior disorders. He works hard at behaving but still gets into a lot of trouble at school and home. A couple of years ago, Adam’s mother dropped him off at his dad’s home and never returned.
At the time his dad, who suffers from PTSD, was living with friends with no extra room. In their time of crisis, the family called St. Anthony Family Shelter. Adam said when he first came to stay he felt confused, fearful, anxious, and angry. Adam is not the only child to believe he may be the cause of his family being homeless. But the truth is children never cause homelessness. They are innocent sufferers.
The activities and services at St. Anthony Family Shelter, as well as our other programs are focused on reducing the short and long-term impacts of childhood homelessness. Your support allows us to address the uncertainty, confusion, fear, anxiety, anger, and guilt homeless children often feel. It enables us to enrich their lives with love and encouragement during a very difficult period, allowing children to thrive in the future and break the cycle of poverty.
Serving poor, underemployed and struggling families takes a strong commitment by many people. We are grateful for our donors, volunteers, and community partners. In 1998, Catholic Charities started its first official volunteer program. This past year, well over 1,500 volunteers gave of their time and talent to feed, shelter and assist Catholic Charities clients in countless ways.
Vickie Grow volunteers for Our Daily Bread Food Pantry at least twice a week. Her passion for helping others shines as she credits her desire to help to the Lord. “He qualifies those He calls. I was not qualified, but He qualified me,’’ she said. “If you keep it in mind, it’s His pantry. He’s sending these people for me to learn something from them, and to give myself to them.”
Please join us in our birthday celebration, because it’s truly a community-wide recognition. We are grateful to God for inspiring our work, and we are grateful to all those who contribute to the mission to alleviate poverty and build strong families.
Glick is executive director of Catholic Charities.